Friday, 4 September 2009

Progress report

Harvest time for the onions and the garlic- I pulled up lots, and they are currently drying on my barbecue in the garage. I think that is about the best use for a barbecue grill this summer- so much for the Met office and their fabled 'Barbecue Summer'. They are very smelly, but they keep the vampires away (the garlic, not the Met office).

I planted some strawberries for next summer, and some spinach and Chinese salad for over winter. The sweet corn is still progressing well, and the pumpkin is about the same size as it was last time I reported on it, but has turned a nice orange colour. I hope it is going st swell a bit in the next few weeks, or it is going to be useless come Halloween. Well may be we can eat it instead.

The tomatoes have all died while I was away on holiday. Typically the two weeks we go abroad are the only two weeks without rain all year! Oh well. The raspberry canes don't look too happy either.

Worst by far was the cabbage and broccoli, which I covered up with mesh after they were mauled by marauding pigeons. Now they are being stripped bare by a biblical plague of cabbage white butterfly caterpillars. The cabbage looks more like Swiss cheese, and the Broccoli is strait out of the pages of "The Hungry Caterpillar"!
I took the mesh down- let the bloody pigeons do something useful for a change and fill their boots with big fat caterpillars!


Friday, 7 August 2009

This bunch of carrots is the result of my 'bucket of carrots' experiment. Earlier in the spring one of the old hands down the allotment saw me wandering about with a 12 inch plant pot that I had found in my garage. "You know what you want to do with that?" he said "Sieve some soil and compost into it and sow carrot seeds. Stand it up on a stack of pallets two foot off the ground and keep it well watered." The rational for sieving the soil is to encourage nice straight carrots, as they tend to deflect and fork if the hit even the smallest stone. The idea of standing it two foot off the ground is to prevent attack by carrot fly, which flutters along below that height, apparently operating under the misscomprehension that all carrots grow in the ground.

I followed the old guys advice, and sowed baby carrot seeds (and I sowed another lot when Charlie accidentally kicked the first lot off the wood pile, scattering them to the four winds). I put a Tesco carrier bag over the top to encourage them to germinate, and that was that. The ridiculous rainfall we have had this year meant I hardly even needed to water them. The carrot fly were suitably confused by the wood pile, and we have got a big bunch of sweet baby carrots. Next year we will be carrying this experiment on, perhaps with other varieties, and sowing them at two weekly intervals to give us sustained cropping. This method is easy, successful and, best of all, doesn't involve any digging. You could even do this on a sunny patio.
Not that all the carrots ended up dart straight though. This one is a particular oddity. It reminds me of a mandrake root from Harry Potter.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Bad weather has meant we have made little progress in July. We've had the odd nice day, and managed to get down and do some weeding, but in general the allotment is staring to look a bit wild around the edges.

The blasted pigeons continue to decimate the sprouts- I think the chances of having any sprouts for Christmas is slim. We have just one pumpkin growing- so unless the other pumpkin plants buck up a bit and get on with setting flowers, it looks like we are going to have to fight over it. Currently it is about the size of a grapefruit, and is a nice dark green colour. Onions continue to thrive, and the sweetcorn is now about four foot high and at least one of them looks like it will soon produce a corn! I dug up the last of the potatoes today, and they are very nice but the tubers are a bit firm and need some cooking- next year I might try a better known variety- King Edwards or something like that. Rhubarb, raspberries and beetroot continue to put on a fairly uninspiring show.

One of the surprise star performers is the mint. It's a surprise because I never planted any- at lest ten foot square of the allotment is covered in a dense mat of mint, which thrives in the environment- no doubt it is the left overs from some previous tenants herb garden. People say that mint is a bugger to get rid of, but I haven't even tried yet. Its very pleasant when crushed under my wellies in the evening, as it releases an aromatic scent. It allows keeps any other weeds under controls, so I am going to leave it in peace. At least until I need that area for my own bed. I have pulled up a massive bunch and I am going to make some mint sauce today. I'll let you know how it goes.

We bought a black plastic compost bin with a screw top from the council. It is big and cylindrical, and has been christened the Darlek. I got Charlie and Corinne to carry it down to the allotment. They got some funny looks of passers by but just smiled and waved as if it were an everyday occurrence. We don't need another compost bin, as I have already built two out of pallets, but its is a useful tool store, protecting our spades and forks from the elements.

The only other progress we have made is in the paths- which were overgrown and scruffy looking. I have been digging out the paths, weeds, grass and all, and the lining the pit with black membrane (hand-me-down form my father-in-law, not bought- right on Mr Flowerdew!) then lots of where barrows full of bark chip supplied free of charge to the allotment by the council, who are only to happy to get rid of their shredded hedgerows and bushes. Charlie had been helping me in the endeavor, and although progress is much slower than I would have liked dire to the ground still being completely sodded (and this is august!) it is beginning to look quite nice.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Well, summers here, along with lots of sun and rain. The allotment is doing OK, but the weeds are thriving; it's like a jungle! There is no chance of us winning the best looking allotment 2009.

I have taken to digging the paths between the beds, and lining them with membrane, then covering them up with mashed up bark chippings we get free form the council. It is really hard work, but worth the effort. The rain has prevented me making too much progress with this job, but if it OK tomorrow I will try to press on and do a bit more.

The soil I have dug out from the paths I have piled in one corner of the plot, and I am going to use it to level some of the beds that slope down too much. This should help eliminate the problem of the beds filling up with water in the winter and early spring.

We have had a meal off the allotment! Potatoes, whilst not really thriving, have produced some yield. The radishes were very tasty, or at least the slugs seemed to think so, as they took the lion's share. We had some baby carrots too, which were a bit thin, but very tasty. I got the seeds for the spinach beat free with a magazine, and I planted them up, not expecting much. They have grown quite well, and are very tasty. We even had two raspberries!

The lettuce, however, whist looking lovely, tasted bitter, and had the texture of shoe leather. I am asking around for someone who wants some fodder for a rabbit or similar.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Bloody pigeons!
I have dug another vegetable bed, and planted broccoli and cabbage. I thought about covering the young plants up, but never got round to it before the inundations of rain we experienced last week. A week of unseasonable rain put me off going down to the allotment, and when the sun finally returned, I wandered down to find nothing but the skeletal remains of my plants. Even my sprouts, that I planted last month, have been pecked to the very brink of extinction.
I quite like pigeons. We live in a semi-rural area, and have pretty looking Wood Pigeons around here, not the rough urban 'feral' pigeons. At my garden at home I always leave out a few handfuls of grain each day, and welcome the bloaty grey birds when other, less sympathetic gardeners invest in 'pigeon proof' bird feeders and so on. Which makes it all the more galling when the ungrateful feathered thieves treat our allotment like an eat all you want buffet!
In order to discourage the bird-burglars I have erected a tent of mesh and canes, and have made a bird scarer, cunningly fashioned from bits of string and ribbons of plastic cut from old bin bags. I checked the plants last night, and it looks like I might have done the right thing. The skeletal plants have began to put out new leaves, and so hopefully they should recover. I have learned a valuable lesson- from now own those blasted feathered footpads will have to go else where for breakfast!

Saturday, 30 May 2009

I am conscious that a lot of time has passed since my last blog entry, which is certainly not because I have been idle in the allotment. The allotment goes from strength to strength, and it is a busy time of down there. That, coupled with being distracted by some other projects, has meant I have fallen behind with the blogging, and rather than write a massive block, I figure the best bet is to update the 'story so far' in a few instalments.

After building the rhubarb bed, I inherited six raspberry canes off my aunt and uncle's allotment. They had been clearing out an overgrown patch, and rather that throw them on the compost they gave them to me, wrapped in soggy newspaper. I must say I was rather uninspired to receive half a dozen wet twigs, each ending in a gnarled ball of roots, but, in the Bob Flowerdew inspired philosophy of reclaimed timber and salvage, I thought what the hell, and built another bed for them besides the rhubarb.
So far, the results have not been spectacular, but each of the six canes had sprouted a few green leaves, and one or two even have flower buds on them, so at least they haven't died.

That brings me on to my new "Allotment Classifications System" that I have devised for monitoring the success of my growth. Basically it consists of three levels of status for the plants: Thrive; Alive and Died. So far, I would say that the majority of my plants fit into the middle category, Alive, because they are just plodding along. The sweet potatoes that I was so proud of on the windowsill propagator never really made it out of the cold-frame, and are defiantly in the latter category. They are now in a 'better place' (ie, my compost bin), while the onions I grew from seed, and my wife planted, are defiantly in the first category, Thrive, as they are looking splendid, and are attracting envious looks from my fellow allotmenteers.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Easter Sunday has seen some remarkable progress at the Bresnen plot. Dry, if not particularly sunny, weather meant we could spend some serious time down the allotment getting everything ready for spring. If B+Q had been open, or I had the presence of mind to have bought what I needed in advance, we could have made even better progress.

Charlie and I headed down first, and he helped me sow a row of baby carrot seeds, radishes and garlic. He was really keen and engaged, and worked well for about an hour. After this he wandered off to play with my electric screwdriver and some scrap wood, but I was delighted to have his so keen to help- an hour is a long time when your are eight-nearly-nine years old. I can't wait to see how he will be when we actually start pulling veg out of the ground. The radishes we sowed will crop in just four weeks, so I wont have to wait too long.

Eleanor and Corinne came down later. They sowed another row of carrots (Autumn cropping this time). Eleanor's seeds were widely broadcast, to say the least, but she was keen to help too. I was disappointed that I didn't take the camera so I could take a rare photo of Corinne with her hands dirty!

Later Eleanor 'helped' by sitting on a deck chair eating a hot-cross bun while supervising Corrine plant a row of onions. These are the ones I started off in the propagator on my window sill, and which are now very health looking. I received envious looks from fellow allotmenteers, who said that it quite difficult to grow onions from seed.

Corinne wore her new wellies today, for their inaugural allotment session. They're a strikingly fashionable duck egg blue with a pattern of red Labradors all over. For Corinne it is important to look good at all times, even when your grubbing about in the mud.

I extended my rhubarb bed, to accommodate a new plant my mum and dad bought me for my birthday, and added another row of beetroot too.
In theory at least, by summer we should be feasting on radishes, baby carrots, beetroots and new potatoes. I can't wait!

Friday, 3 April 2009

A momentous week this week. We have planted things in the allotment!

Saturday was the eventful day. I dragged the family down to the allotment for the grand ceremony. There, amongst showers of stinging hale and driving Arctic winds we planted two rows of first early 'Rocket' seed potatoes. Eleanor, perhaps wisely given the inclement weather conditions, chose to remain in the car and watch through the window and beep the horn in moral support.

The hale stones and a bitter frost proved to be winter's last spiteful sting. Spring has sprung here, and the weather has turned notability warmer. By Wednesday (my birthday) Corinne and I took advantage of the beautiful weather and headed down to the allotment for some serious digging. Following some expert advise from an old hander I dug over the seed bed again with a strange hoe, which looked like something quite medieval, rather like the sort of thing you expect to be wielded by and angry mob of peasants. This hoe made short work of the solid soil, enabling me to dig in more compost and sand to improve the clay soil. It was hard work but I confidently expect it will be ready for seeds with just a few more digs over. We also planted a crown of rhubarb.

Good news today. My dad delivered six lengths of old scaffolding planks for my raised beds. I am looking forwards to getting started on the next set of raised beds.

Friday, 27 March 2009

A progress report is overdue, but here's the news form last week. With it being mother's day weekend, we didn't get down the allotment, but the fine weather on Tuesday meant I managed to drag Corinne out to finish digging out the fourth bed. They are all dug over now, but two of them need breaking up a bit.

Bad weather for this week has hampered my progress, but this morning I made best use of a dry, if blustery day, to get two hours in down the allotment. I finished my first raised bed, made entirely from reclaimed pallet wood (reclaimed by me, out of a skip- see earlier entry). Bob Flowerdew will be proud.

I also prepped another bed ready for the seed potatoes. I haven't planted them yet because I am hoping for a dryish day tomorrow, because I feel it is something all the family will want to be involved in. The first planning in the Bresnen Plot deserves to be something of an occasion.

Seedlings continue to trouble me. The cabbages keep dying, and I don't know why. The leeks and onions are progressing very well, and the butternut squash have shot up like triffids! They have been in the compost for two weeks and are already seven inches tall!

Monday, 16 March 2009

What a weekend!
We have had glorious spring weather, and have manged to spend some quality family time down the allotment. Saturday morning Eleanor had swimming lesson, and so Charlie and I were going to go down the plot, but he preferred to go to watch his sister swimming, and so I went on my own.
I was delighted to see that the beds I have started to dig over have dried out a bit, although the rest is still a boggy mess of weeds and mud (With scenes reminiscent of the Somme. Only with out the trench foot. Or the artillery.) I was a bit under the weather and I didn't feel like digging, so I dismantled one of the pallets I pinched out of the skip earlier in the week.
Saturday afternoon saw a dinner date we had arranged cancelled, and so I leaped at the chance of dragging the whole family down to help out down at the plot. Eleanor as weeding, Corinne digging and Charlie was making the sides of the raised bed while I... well, I was over seeing. The art of good management is delegation after all.
Charlie got frustrated at not being able to use the electric screw driver but was able to take that frustration out bashing clods of earth up in the newly dug over bed. He did a grand job too, and the bed almost looks good enough to plant into.
Sunday was fine too, and Corinne took Charlie off to his Grandad's, so I was left with Eleanor. We had some quality father-daughter bonding/retail time down B+Q, buying compost and sand (and ice-cream). Then we moved the seedlings to the cold frame, and Eleanor made herself useful cleaning the cold frame while I forked the sand into the beds to improve the drainage of the heavy clay soil. She lasted a whole twenty minutes before she asked to go home.
That's real progress!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

I did my first bout of skip-raiding today.
I was driving past a skip on the drive way of a local house, when I noticed a couple of intact pallets poking out. I pulled over. It took me a few minutes to pluck up the courage to do anything about it- after all, someone rooting though your skip must be weired, right? With a deep breath, I got my story straight and walked up to ring the bell.
No answer. Damn.
Looking around, I could see that there was a "To Rent" sign in the garden and there were no curtains up at the windows. A quick glance up the street to make sure now one was coming, and I furtively skulked up the driveway towards the skip. Still no one challenged me, and so I slipped the pallet out of the skip and carried it over to my car. The point of no return.
I pushed it into the back seat of the car, dived into the driving seat and shot off, heading to the allotment before anyone noticed.
Having been brought up to be law-abiding and honest, it seems strange to take something that does not belong to me, even something that someone had thrown onto a skip and would soon be land fill.
That said, it didn't stop me going back for the second one.
There is no turning back now. I have started on the slippery slope of reclaimed materials. What next: Hey mate, if your not going to use that bath tub I could make a nice water feature?; Hey Buddy, don't throw that old tire out, I could grow potatoes in that. It's a short step from fishing pallets out of skips to becoming a fully fledged member of the Order of the Sandal-wearing Hippy Vegan Flowerdew crowd.
Are you going to throw that away?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Another week has passed since my last blog entry, and the slow but steady progress continues at The Bresnen Plot. In the week I began work on laying out where the raised beds are going to go with string and stakes. As I was working some of the old hands stopped by to give me tips and advice, and as a consequence I ended up changing my design as I was going along. More than once; That said, the benefit of their experience was welcome, and the allotment is slowly taking shape.
As the soil is quite waterlogged I decided to dig a couple of drainage ditches down either sided of the plot, and across the top to take away the run off from the road. Most of the other allotmenters think this is a sound idea, and worth the effort, and we can always use the soil we dig out of the ditch to top up our raised beds.
I spoke to Christine, the lady who has the plot below mine on the slope, and she agreed that the idea of added drainage was good, but then it occurred to me that the nice new raised bed she has just built for her asparagus could end up getting washed away by the run off from my plot. I suggested that she could always plant rice instead, but she didn't seem taken by the idea of a paddy field allotment. We decided that the best bet for both of us is to dig two deep holes at the bottom of my drainage ditch and to fill them with gravel to act as drain-away. Now that I am committed to the idea of only using reclaimed or recycled materials in our plot I have to find some where that sells some suitable rubble or waste material for me to use.

On the topic of recycling, I now find myself peering into skips in the hope of finding a pallet or timber to use on our plot. My wife thinks I am very strange. I have not had much luck so far. We did find one at the back of an old building, but I couldn't fit it in the car because the kids were in the way. I did consider leaving Charlie behind, but Corinne gave me 'The Look', and so I dropped the idea. Shame though.

Work continues this week on the seeds in the propagator. Truth be told, I don't think the windowsill is light enough, but I haven't got much choice. The seeds that have come up have a tendency towards legginess. I have put them out in the garden to catch a few rays on the warm days we have had this week. I have pricked out some of my cabbages, but some others I have left a bit too late, and so I have just thinned these out a bit. Hopefully the next batch I sow I will be able to catch before they run wild.

This morning I went down to our local garden center to get some toy tools and gardening gloves for Eleanor to use down the allotment, in the hope of engaging her in the idea of gardening. Below is a rare picture of Eleanor helping with the weeding. After this was taken she told me it was too cold, and she wanted to go home. She spent the rest of the time playing in the car. Well it's a start.

Today's task was to make a start double digging the ground where the raised beds are going to sit. Blimey that is hard work. We made some progress, but there is lots more to do because the ground is very impacted, and has a heavy, clay consistency. It's going to need lots of good organic stuff adding to it to improve it's consistency. It's good to get the spade in the soil though. It feels like a real step forwards.

It was nice to get down to the allotment as a family, even if only for a short time. Although Eleanor still thinks the whole thing is a bit pointless, Charlie remains very enthusiastic, if not actually that helpful. Even Corinne managed to get her new spade Christened by helping to double dig one of the beds.

Corinne looking windswept and interesting.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

I had big plans for our allotment.
It was going to be the smartest allotment in the country and win awards for its beautifully crafted raised beds and furniture. People would come from far and wide to marvel at it's ingenuity, and it would be featured on Gardeners World. I had already planned out the whole plot, and had been down to B+Q to price up all the timber I would need to built the beds and so forth. I reckoned on £300 or so for the beds this year, and a similar amount next year. Sounded reasonable.
But then something happened to make me change my mind.
The more I talked to the other allotmenters, the more I began to wonder if the route I was taking was the right one. They made comments about 'not being what allotments are about' or 'not being in the spirit of it'. This made me wonder about something I had not really considered before. What is allotmenteering about? I had assumed it was about getting out in the fresh air, and growing your own veg. Is there more to it than this?
The other plots down my allotment are a real mix bag; Some are ancient, tended by equally ancient and unbelievably wise owners. They tend to scoff on modern conveniences like raised beds, instead favoring lovingly tended beds of healthy looking plants and hours of painstaking, back-breaking hard work; Some are from the Bob Flowerdew school of thought, and are a scruffy mix of reclaimed old tyres and carpets, organically grown spotty veg and wind-blown weeds growing 'where nature intended'; Other allotments have neatly made raised beds, fashioned from plywood or treated timbers. It was this last group that I initially felt drawn towards, and it was this I had in mind when I designed our family allotment.
So what changed my mind? It wasn't the cost, well not entirely. There was a time I could have spent £300 on our garden without even thinking about it. Things are a bit tighter nowadays, but I could still stretch to it if I thought it was important. No, what really made me stop and think was the comments of my peers down at the allotment. They often looked on disparagingly at the freshly sawn timbers of the other new starters - the ones that I thought looked great- commenting on how much timber they had used, and how much it must have cost them and what a waste it was. The first time I heard such comments I thought it was sour grapes, or a 'it wasn't like that in my day' sort of attitude, but the more I heard it, the more I began to think: No one ever said anything bad about the scruffy organic Flowerdew plots. May be there was something in it.
I realised I was guilty of a basic blunder. I had been designing our allotment the same way I would have designed a garden. But it's not a garden. It is an allotment, and what is important for an allotment is not the way it looks, or how many awards it gets. What is important for allotments- the very spirit my fellow allotmenters had talked about- was that we should get out of them what we put into them, with interest applied by mother nature herself. Pristine timbers may look nice, but they wont increase my yield come harvest time, and every time I look at them I would be reminded that I had taken the easy route and just bought timber from B+Q. That's not low impact. That isn't environmentally friendly. And it isn't 'what allotments are all about'.
And so, with this see change in my thinking in effect I have decided that we will only use recycled, reclaimed, or reconditioned things on our allotment as much as possible. I might stop short of the Flowerdew-esque piles of old tires and rotting carpet, but I won't be buying any brand new timbers for our raised bed. If it's not the smartest plot on the site it doesn't matter, so long as we are happy with it.

The compost bin, which, as you can see, is constructed from reclaimed timber and old packing crates. Not smart perhaps, but I had great fun making it. I just need more packing crates to make a companion for it, and some scaffolding planks for our raised beds. I need to keep my eyes peeled.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Yesterday I began planting seeds. Lacking windowsills in our house that are suitably sunny and equally suitably out of the reach of Eleanor, I opted for the rather strange arrangement show in the photo below. By balancing one of the children's old tables on top of my chest of draws I have made a suitable area for my propagators. Fingers crossed.

Today Charlie and I went down to the allotment to have a go at making a compost bin and assembling the cold frame I bought from ALDI on Thursday. The weather was dull and grey, not at all like yesterday, but we made do. Charlie wandered around bashing things with a hammer (not sure why) while I cut the wooden pallets up to the right side for the composter. It was only when I came to assemble said bin that I discovered the battery on my electric screwdriver was flat. That's another thing I have learned this week about allotments.
We did manage to get the cold frame finished, however, as you can see in this picture. Looking good! Charlie 'helped', which is to say that he posed for a picture holding one of the panels, and took some of me doing all the work. Then he wandered around the plot hitting the weeds with a stick and calling himself "The Weedkiller".
Later, on the way home I asked him if he had enjoyed coming down to the allotment.
"Yeah. It's cool." He replied.
Nuf said.

Me next to our shinny new cold frame

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Yesterday I poured weedkiller all over my allotment. I had been in a quandary about it, because I didn't really want to use excessive chemicals, and I don't really think it was getting off to the best start by beginning with chemical deforestation. I reached this difficult decisions after consulting some of the more experienced guys down at the allotment, ad referring to Mr Alan Titchmarch, no less, who recommends using a weedkiller like Roundup in his book, but just once, to clear an area, and then in future he uses a chemical free gardening technique. That said, there are advantages to using weed killer at this early stay. The weed killer I have used does not stay in the soil, and it is safe to plant into it in just three weeks. This way I can be sure that the plants and roots of the weeds are destroyed. Rotavating a weed-ridden patch will only propagate them further, making the problem much worse in the future. I suppose I could have dug them out, but that would have taken ages, and I would have missed the beginning of the growing season. The only other method is to cover the whole area in thick black plastic or old carpet and wait for two years for all the weeds to die. And I am way too impatient for that.

I know I will get disapproving looks from some of the organic gardeners, and I do feel suitably guilty about what I have done, but it is done now, and I stand by my decision. The only thing I can say to them is that I promise, in future, to use as few chemicals as possible.

This is a picture of my Mum and Dad, and our cat Rusty, inspecting our allotment. They don't look to impressed.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

I have just bought a cold frame, some seed compost and some propagators cheep from ALDI supermarket, and some seeds from Homebase. Only trouble is, I don't know what to do with them. I know I need them, because I have seen them on gardening programs on telly, but I have never grown anything from seed before. Except for cress. I will be hitting the books tonight looking for wisdom.
I have bought £20 worth of seeds: Broccoli, onions, summer cabbage, carrots, beetroots, butternut squash, sprouts and seed potatoes. All vegetables we use a lot in cooking, so are certain to enjoy when we harvest them. I don't really know how many seeds to buy. Hopefully I have got enough. It's got to be better to have too much. I can always give some away too my fellow allotmenters (Or should that be allotmentites? or allotmenteers? or allotmnetians?).

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Welcome to the first page of the Bresnen family's allotment blog. This is intended to be a record of our adventures into the world of grow-your-own, self-sufficient, welly wearing allotment good life.

The Bresnen Family
Let me begin by introducing the Bresnen Family. I am Rob. I am considered the gardener in the family, because I grew some flowers in pots and I once grew potatoes quite successfully. I have lots of enthusiasm, but not much experience. My beautiful wife is Corinne. Her experience of gardening extends to cutting the grass and occasionally watering the pots. It's reasonable to say she is a fair weather gardener. Charlie is our son. He is eight, and is quite excited about the allotment. He wants to be involved in everything. How long this enthusiasm will last remains to be seen, but is highly commendable at the moment. Eleanor is four and is a very lively girl with Downs Syndrome. She doesn't like getting cold or getting her hands dirty. Or wearing a coat and gloves. I think its fair to say she takes after her mother in her preference for the 'nicer' aspects of gardening. She does, however, like vegetables and fruit. A lot.
Why do we want an allotment? Well there are a number of reasons: Firstly, it will get me out of the house. I work shifts and am often off in the week. I tend to spend my spare time messing about on the computer, you know, blogging and stuff (The irony of what I have just wrote was not lost on me). I often look back at the end of the day and think 'I wish I had done something constructive'; Secondly, it will give us something nice to do as a family that won't cost the earth; Thirdly, we want the children to know where their fruit and vegetables come from. So many children nowadays have become so detached from the source of their food that they think potatoes come in bags and have no idea if carrots grow under ground or on trees; Fourthly, it would be nice for us to know that our food had been grown with minimal chemicals and locally, to reduce the impact environmentally; Finally, it will hopefully save us a bit of money when it comes to harvest time.
Our Plot

We began our adventure six months ago, when, almost entirely on a whim, I put my name down for an allotment near our home. I promptly rushed out and bought some books on the topic then, as I didn't really expect to hear anything from the allotment's council for a year or so, as I was number thirteen on the list, I put said books on my book shelf in my garage to gather dust. Then I more or less forgot about it, except for when I was throwing potato peelings in the dustbin while thinking 'I wish I had an allotment so I could compost this!'

Then, a few weeks ago I got a call from Kevin, who is chairman of the Allotment's council, to see if we were still interested. Of course I replied that we were and sent my wife off to pick a plot (because I was at work). Then I dusted off the books.

The plot we have got is, in fact, a half plot, due to the demand for allotments locally. It is 22 foot by 39 foot, and positioned on a slight slope. The ground looks quite well drained compared to some of the plots further down the hill. It is thigh high with weeds, and hasn't been cultivated for some time.
The First Morning at the Allotment

We went down to the allotment at the week end. There were a lot of the allotment folk down there getting busy, and they were all very friendly. Some stopped to chat and give advice, which I was very grateful for, being such a complete novice.

We took a rake, with the intentions of raking of the dead weeds so that we could get a better idea of where we were starting from. I also took a hammer to break up some pallets to use the timber in a later project. Charlie took over raking off the weeds, remarking that it was "our allotment, not just yours." He was enthusiastic, but not very effective. I attacked the pallets, which despite being rotten, failed to come apart. Meanwhile Corinne and Eleanor wandered off to look at the bullocks in the field next door. By the time they came back I had removed three planks from the pallets and Charlie had cleared a section about a yard square. Then Eleanor fell over, had a moan about getting her new pink coat dirty and about being cold. Then we went home.
It wasn't the most successful start, but it was a start, and we leaned a few important lessons.
  1. Dress Eleanor in old clothes, not her best, brand new coat.
  2. Make sure we take snacks and things to keep Eleanor busy while we work.
  3. Make sure we take enough tools for everyone to get involved. Don't underestimate Charlie's enthusiasm.
  4. Don't use a hammer to dismantle pallets. Use a saw.
  5. We have got a lot of work ahead of us.


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